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How 9-Volt Batteries Can be a Home Hazard

You might be surprised by a potential danger lurking in your home. If you’re like many, your home has a catch-all “junk drawer,” repository for everything from pens and pencils to coins, miscellaneous parts and stray batteries (who knows if they’re fresh?).

If there are loose 9-volt batteries there, though, there is a better reason to clean them out besides just feeling organized. Those batteries can start a fire. It goes like this: A metal object touches the posts of the batteries, causing a short circuit, which creates enough heat to start a fire.

Fires from loose 9-volt batteries have been reported across the country, from Colorado to Kansas and New Hampshire. This is such an unexpected hazard for many that homeowners have launched grassroots public awareness campaigns.

You can minimize danger from 9-volt batteries

NFPA’s 9-volt battery safety tip sheet warns of the dangers of storing 9-volt batteries in a drawer near paper clips, pens, coins, or other batteries. This applies to any 9-volt batteries, whether they are recently purchased or seem to be “dead.”

Items such as keys, aluminum foil, and steel wool should never be kept near 9-volt batteries. If one of these items touches both battery posts, there is an even greater risk of a fire starting.

Batteries should be kept in original packaging until ready for use. If loose, keep posts covered with masking, duct, or electrical tape.

The NFPA sheet also gives tips on the safe disposal of 9-volt batteries: Cover the posts with masking tape, duct tape or electrical tape before tossing them. Check to see what the regulations are in your municipality – some prohibit throwing 9-volt batteries in the trash. Of course, the best choice is to take them to a collection center for household hazardous waste.

It may seem ironic that the batteries we use in our smoke alarms could cause a potential hazard, but regardless of the use homeowners should take care to follow simple safety precautions.


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